As stated by Hanane Taidi (Director General, TIC Council) in the Sep 30, 2022 IAF Members’ news, counterfeiting is a hugely lucrative business. According to the Global Trade in Fakes report jointly published by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) in 2021, the volume of international trade in counterfeit and pirated products amounted to as much as 464 billion US dollars in 2019, corresponding to 2.5% of world trade.
Twinned with the intentional deception of counterfeiting certificates, there is additional confusion in the marketplace regarding accreditation vs certification, along with accredited vs non-accredited certification.
Whilst the terms ‘accreditation’ and ‘certification’ are often used interchangeably, they are two closely related but distinct steps on the quality assurance ladder. Accreditation is a rung further up the ladder, performing an oversight role that underpins the quality, impartiality and competence of the certification process and the certification bodies that perform it. Certification is an audit of whether an organisation, product or individual, conforms to the criteria laid out in a recognised standard or scheme, such as ISO 9001 Quality Management Systems.
Whilst it is not mandatory for certification bodies (CABs) to be accredited by a national accreditation body (NAB), the UK he UK government expects UK based conformity assessment bodies to seek accreditation from the United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS) as according to the ABCB, in their industry position statement, Non-accredited CABs are not subject to the independent scrutiny that an NAB brings and so may not be able to demonstrate that it has the competence, capability and impartiality required to conduct conformity assessments in a universally accepted way.
SCS believe that accredited certification delivers more confidence for stakeholders who rely on certified products and services.
So even when accredited, with over 4000 certification bodies and 68 IAF MLA signatory accreditation bodies globally, validation of certifications across supply chains can still be difficult. The aggregation of certification data in a global database now makes the validation process more effective and efficient.
IAF Cert Search
IAF CertSearch and its supporting technology (an IAF CertSearch mark and Certified Trade Marketplace) will increase awareness, education, value and integrity of accredited certification. IAFCertSearch.org is an online platform where accredited certifications can be validated in real time.
The platform enables a user to validate individual certifications in cases where the users know the “company name” or “certification ID” (known entities).
There is significant support from all levels of the accredited certification network, industry, government and regulators. IAF CertSearch and the UKAS Certcheck databases are promoted by industry associations, industry users, global trade organizations, regulators, governments, the IAF, UKAS, Accreditation Bodies, Certification Bodies and Certified Entities from all over the world as the trusted sources for validating accredited certification.
IAF Members have recently voted to make participation in IAF CertSearch mandatory. This decision signals a strong step toward ensuring its utility as a tool for users of accredited certification and combating fake and fraudulent certificates in the marketplace.
Back in June 2022 UKAS launched their free online accredited certification verification service aptly named ‘CertCheck’. Entirely self-funded, UKAS provide the CertCheck platform free to use and open to all. Searching on UKAS CertCheck provides a simple confirmation whether a certification is currently valid. Users can search by either company name or certificate number, with the results showing all the UKAS accredited certifications held by that company.
Wayne Terry, Chief Executive of the Association of British Certification Bodies said: “It is an unfortunate fact that some unscrupulous organisations or individuals’ prey upon the complexity of the existing certification verification process, allowing them to pass off fraudulent or misleading claims, which unfortunately, was amplified during the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, defrauding the procurement process undermines the hard work that many organisations go through to achieve valid accredited certification. UKAS CertCheck will give confidence to organisations that rely upon accredited certification helping them ensue those claims are valid”.
Certificates uploaded to the database by CABs accredited by UKAS will also be automatically registered on the global database.
If you’d like to find out more about the certification framework and the process for validating certificates, please click on the link to the IAF’s informative short video here.